Alas, no gender, age, nor ethnicity is exempt from the global crisis of human trafficking. However, the victims are not dispersed evenly throughout the planet. The International Labour Organization (ILO) has concluded that the over half of all trafficked persons, for a total of 11. 7 million slaves, come from the Asia-Pacific region. Meanwhile, the highest rates of people trafficked per thousand inhabitants exists in Central and Southeastern Europe (depicted in light blue) and Africa regions (depicted in tan), both having a rate of over four trafficked persons for every one thousand inhabitants (“Statistics on Forced Labour…”).
Though the United States of America has one of the lowest rates of human trafficking worldwide, slavery still poses a threat in this nation. Currently, America is home to approximately six hundred thousand slaves spread throughout all fifty states (“The Business of Modern-Day Slavery”). Undeniably, slavery occurs in every region of the globe, but it does not pose an equal threat everywhere. Several distinctive characteristics of different areas can lead to this unbalance b causing certain countries to be more susceptible to human trafficking over other countries.
Economic, political and cultural factors all lead to an environment where it is easier for traffickers to find victims. Most anti-trafficking organizations claim poverty is the leading contributing factor of human trafficking. Poverty limits a person’s opportunities for education or social and financial advancement. Traffickers take advantage of this situation and cajole victims with false opportunities for education or employment.
Traffickers can also be encouraged by a government’s apathy, because “without the complacency and/or participation of government officials or law enforcement, traffickers could not operate” (“Human Trafficking 101”). The authorities who the citizens trust to protect them, are the ones failing to terminate traffickers. Nevertheless, even political conflicts and civil unrest not caused by the government can lead to an environment more susceptible to trafficking.. Oftentimes war displaces millions of people who try to flee the battle zone. Many are children who are orphaned by the hostilities, and are therefore more vulnerable to trafficking.
Even something as fundamental as a country’s culture can encourage traffickers. In many cultures, there is also a difference between the treatment of men and women. Generally in those cultures, women are viewed as lesser than men which can lead to abuse, mistreatment and possibly slavery. (“4 Causes of Human Trafficking”). Though all of these factors contribute to the ease of trafficking, none of these elements are entirely to blame for the crisis. Despite the contributions of the aspects of poverty, political unrest, war or cultural differences, ultimately and without fail, “human trafficking is caused by human traffickers” (Bryfonski 22).
Traffickers know how to manipulate another’s weaknesses for their own gain. “Often the traffickers and their victims share the same national, ethnic, or cultural background, allowing the trafficker to better understand and exploit the vulnerabilities of their victims” (“The Victims and Traffickers”). Additionally, many traffickers share more than a nationality with their victims. Forty-six percent of modern day slaves are related to, romantically involved with, or personally know their traffickers in some way (Bryfonski 15).
Sex traffickers, or pimps, can easily take advantage of a person’s affection for them and manipulate that person into participating in sexual acts to make them money. Thought the pimp may occasionally participate in the sexual exploitation themselves, they are characterized by their primary purpose which is to make a profit. One pimps has the potential to make hundreds of thousands of dollars a year (“Human Trafficking by the Numbers”) off of a slave that cost them an average of ninety dollars to purchase (Bryfonski 14).
These immense profits are encouraging more sex traffickers to join the trade. Lamentable, pimps are not alone in the endeavor to enslave others for financial benefits. Labor traffickers also see the financial benefits of human trafficking. They view slavery as an opportunity to save money on labor expenses. One particular German restaurant saved money by paying their Chinese kitchen aids less than one sixth what they were due (“Human Trafficking by the Numbers”). This kind of financial siphoning takes place not only in the private sector, but through state imposed forced labor as well.
Approximately ten percent of all trafficked persons are enslaved by their own government (“The Business of Modern-Day Slavery”). Tragically, governments around the world force their adult and children citizens into work or to participate in military or rebel armed forces (“Statistics on Forced Labor…”). However, whether government, business owner, or pimp, no human trafficker is invincible. Many countries, including the United States, are taking a stand against human traffickers
Relatively recently, the United States of America has started to pass laws and implement programs to bring justice to traffickers, and provide relief for the victims. One of the first pieces of legislature in the United States that specifically addressed slavery, was the Mann Act of 1910 (“Current Federal Laws”). This act made it a felony to transport a person between states or internationally “for prostitution or any other immoral purpose” (“Federal Mann Act”). Since then, several laws were passed to prevent slavery in America.
In 2003 the Amber Alert System and other programs were put in place to warn the public of potential human trafficking threats. Likewise, there are laws to protect the rights of the victims by allowing them to sue their traffickers and providing funds for those who shelter and assist victims (“Current Federal Laws”). Within the past ten years, some states have reached out to victims even further by providing partial or in some states full vacatur for slaves. This means the victims cannot be convicted for the the crimes they were forced to commit “as a result of being subjected to trafficking” (“Trafficking in Persons Report” 27).
The most influential piece of legislature that exists is the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000. This law that is described as the “cornerstone of Federal human trafficking legislation,” established methods of prosecuting traffickers, preventing trafficking, protecting victims, and informing the public of slavery through the annual Trafficking In Persons report. These laws are a major step forward in the battle against slavery. Even so, though the laws may exist, the hindrance arises in enforcing the laws.
Human trafficking can be difficult to detect, though sex trafficking is often more evident than labor trafficking. Sex trafficking generally has some public visibility, because it must attract customers. On the contrary, labor trafficking is often hidden behind legitimate and legal businesses (Efrat 41-42). Therefore, it can be difficult to find a substantial case against labor traffickers. In fact, “of the estimated 14. 5 million forced labor victims worldwide, only 418 cases of forced labor were prosecuted globally in 2014,” and only 4,443 traffickers were convicted (“Human Trafficking by the Numbers” ).
Another major struggle encountered when trying to convict traffickers is that generally the victims are “unwilling or unable” to cooperate with the authorities because of “threats from the traffickers, … mistrust of the authorities, lack of education” and language and cultural barriers (Efrat 41). Often a case cannot be built against a trafficker without the inside account from the slaves themselves. Without hard evidence, the laws are ineffective, and the government is left incapacitated. Thus, Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) are necessary to liberate slaves through other methods.
There are a variety of NGOs, each with a unique approach to fight human trafficking. Some anti-trafficking organizations focus on impeding slavery within the United States, while others have a more globally oriented focus. Polar Project is a group based out of Washington, D. C. that delivers victims from oppression through the National Human Trafficking Hotline and the Polaris BeFree Textline. Since it first started operating in 2007, Polaris has received over thirty-one thousand reported cases of human trafficking in the United States (“2016 Statistics from…”). Their efforts have rescued thousands of victims nationwide.
Unlike Polaris, Operation Underground Railroad extends its efforts internationally by taking a “boots-on-the-ground approach” to extract child sex trafficking victims directly from their situations (“Breaking News: Uber…”). In the past three years, they have worked with and entered countries such as the Dominican Republic, India, Thailand, Mexico, Uganda, Colombia and Haiti to “[rescue] 641 victims and [assist] in the arrests of more than 275 traffickers around the world. ” They have many ongoing rescue missions through which they are continuing to free slaves (Operation Underground Railroad).
Other NGOs are fighting a different battlefront entirely. Thorn, cofounded by actors Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore, has developed and implemented software to pinpoint sex and human trafficking through advertisements and other communications on the internet (“How We Work”). Their innovation has modernized the weapons that can be used to contest slavery. No matter their methods, these and numerous other anti-trafficking organizations are united in their goal of rescuing victims, condemning traffickers, and recruiting all citizens to join the fight against modern-day slavery.
Ultimately, if the world is to have even a chance at defeating slavery, the efforts of the government and other anti-trafficking organizations will never be enough. Every citizen must contribute in the war against human trafficking. First of all, everyone has a responsibility to keep himself safe by educating himself and those around him about human trafficking (“Steps You Can Take…”). If every person knew how to keep himself and his family out of the hands of traffickers, slavery could be eliminated completely. Unfortunately this is not the reality of today; therefore, everyone must do their part to lessen the demand for trafficking.
The demand for labor trafficking can be reduced by being conscientious about the products that are bought. Consumers must take initiative and research to make sure the items are made slave free (“The Business of Modern-Day Slavery”). Actions can also be taken to minimize to market for sex trafficking, particularly by not viewing or supporting pornography. It is true that some pornography is legally made, but much of the pornographic content in the world today is made through some form of sex trafficking (“The Inseparable Link Between…”).
If everyone would participate by implementing these simple actions in their life, it could change the entire dynamic of the human trade market, and perhaps thwart it completely. It is true that slavery in today’s world is far from nonexistent. Human trafficking, including sex and labor trafficking, holds millions of people captive, and continues to grow. Human trafficking is a global issue, that is even more incapacitating in areas with greater poverty, lack of opportunity, political unrest, and government complacency allow all types of traffickers to find victims with greater ease.
However, this does not mean human trafficking is unconquerable. Although we have lived in a world that has tolerated this injustice before, we do not have to, nor can we afford to avert our eyes now. The government and other organizations are tirelessly fighting slavery, but their efforts will never be enough. Every citizen must unite to bring justice against traffickers, rescue victims, guard the web and decrease the demand for slavery. Only then will there be a chance for a world where no human being is viewed as property, and every human being can be free.